Is seal control needed?

SEALS are becoming an increasing nuisance along the Esk, according to some Whitby residents, with concerns being raised about the effect the balooning population is having on local fish stocks.

At Monday’s meeting of Whitby Harbour Board, borough councillor Herbert Tindall asked whether population controls should be implemented on the Esk, adding: “A large number of seals got up there and they’re eating a large amount of fish, so I wonder if there’s a way of discouraging seals up there.”

The Esk is a vital breeding ground for populations of salmon and trout and there are fears that an unchecked seal colony would decimate these species.

Jon Whitton, skipper of Never Can Tell-A and former chairman of the Whitby Harbour Consultative Group, said that although seals do “untold damage”, the Environment Agency was reluctant to even consider extreme measures such as culling. He added: “They’re well aware of the problem but their hands are well tied. It’s considered to be political suicide.

“We’ve gone through a period where we have had a cod recovery plan in the North Sea. But they are recovering very slowly and it’s probably as a consequence of a large seal population.”

However, Lyndsey Crawford, curator at Scarborough Sea Life Centre, said that the seal population on the Esk is stable at around six animals and the animals will actually help maintain a healthy fish population.

“Seals can be a pest and I agree that they can be a nuisance,” she said. “But they are few and far between.”

“About five years ago they started frequenting the river. They’re clever and will go where there’s food. We can try to relocate them, but that isn’t easy when they are such big, healthy animals.”